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School-to-Prison Pipeline

This featured collection looks back at articles from the Clearinghouse Review archive that discuss the school-to-prison pipeline, i.e., the way school discipline can lead some students—particularly students of color and students with disabilities—into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. These articles explore ways to curb that pipeline and keep students in school and on a path to success.

No Child Left Behind? Representing Youth and Families in Truancy Matters

By Brenda McGee & Dean Hill Rivkin

Truancy disproportionately affects low-income children and families, but it remains off the radar of most legal services programs. Those programs, however, are the ideal place to tackle the problems at the root of truancy and keep children from ever entering the Juvenile court system. Legal services programs can screen for truancy at intake and can head it off with advocacy in special education, school discipline, health care, mental health services, or housing or a combination of these specialties.

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Unfinished Business

The Mission of the Mississippi Center for Justice

By Martha Bergmark

The Mississippi Center for Justice began in 2003 with a mission of carrying on work that had waned in the deep South since the height of the civil rights movement. In a state that ranks at or near the bottom on many indicators of racial equity and low-income residents’ well-being, the Center uses a range of legal tools to tackle what its founders concluded are the starkest examples of social injustice, including incarceration of juveniles, limited Medicaid benefits, and, more recently, predatory lending. Following Hurricane Katrina, the center opened a new office on the Gulf Coast and helped prevent diversion of federal funds intended for recovery in low-income communities.

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Racial Justice and the School-to-Prison Pipeline

By Jason Langberg & Peggy Nicholson

Millions of students are trapped in the school-to-prison pipeline, which is a system of laws, policies, and practices pushing students out of school and toward the juvenile criminal system. To end this human and civil rights crisis, legal organizations should use the variety of tools available—including representation and community education—as part of an overall strategy to achieve racial justice and fight poverty.

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Multifaceted Strategies to Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline

By Ronald K. Lospennato

Many school districts have implemented misguided “zero-tolerance” policies that, by criminalizing students’ behavior, serve to deny them educational opportunities. The policies have a markedly disproportionate impact particularly on students of color and students with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s administrative complaint resolution system can be an effective tool to challenge suspensions and expulsions under zero-tolerance policies and keep students in school.

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Meeting the Civil Legal Needs of Youth Involved in the Juvenile Justice System

By Anne Lee & Brent Pattison

Many young people involved with the juvenile justice system also have important civil legal needs. However, a gap persists between public defense and civil legal assistance for low-income youth. TeamChild in Washington State attempts to bridge that gap, both in its legal practice and in this article discussing some of the practical challenges presented by civil legal advocacy for juvenile court-involved youth and presenting practice strategies for challenging school discipline and asserting rights to Medicaid and Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment Services.

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Combating the Schoolhouse-to-Jailhouse Track Through Community Lawyering

By Monique L. Dixon

Because America's schools are relying more and more on a law-and-order approach to school discipline, mostly students of color are being pushed off an academic track to a future in the juvenile justice system—the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse track. Community education and legal advocacy can redirect the law enforcement trend by exposing racial disparities and proposing school-reform and community-based alternatives to school systems.

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The Color of Inadequate School Resources

Challenging Racial Inequities that Contribute to Low Graduation Rates and High Risk for Incarceration

By Daniel J. Losen

Students of color, particularly males, graduate from high school at substantially lower rates than white students. Segregation, poverty, and inadequate school resources contribute to this inequity, which is also linked to test-driven accountability of the No Child Left Behind Act and schools' increasing use of overly harsh discipline policies. The U.S. Department of Education has failed to enforce the Act's graduation rate accountability, which might have mitigated the problem of test-score goals giving schools the incentive to push out low achievers. Still, school finance and adequacy litigation and the Act's graduation rate accountability measures are sources of remedies for advocates seeking to stem the flow of students from school to prisons and to increase graduation rates of students of color.

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